As part of Pride month we have been interviewing key figures in the legal industry for our series “Talking Pride with…”

We are excited to share insights from Lee Noyek, Consultant at A&O Shearman . In this interview Lee discusses with Nishlis Legal Marketing the impact of identity on career choices, the importance of authenticity in the workplace, and A&O’s commitment to Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI).

How – if at all – has your identity shaped or influenced your career choices? 

Context is key here. My family is orthodox Jewish. I saw gay issues explored for the first time at university, watching – the [superior] British and original – Queer as Folk. I thought the macho City culture was one where you would keep quiet about sexuality.  I remember the moment that chimera came crashing down. 

Within the first month of my first seat as a trainee at A&O, I went into an NQ’s room and saw a picture of that associate with his boyfriend taking pride of place on his desk. That was such an important life moment. It really showed that you could bring your whole LGBT self to work. A&O has always been a very welcoming place for the LGBT community. Indeed, I attended my first London Pride with the firm. Big Law either in London or in Tel Aviv, where I now live and work, is very welcoming to the LGBT community today, though there is always more to do.

Much is made of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) these days and its role in law, how active are you and the firm in this area? 

Diversity, equity and inclusion is a strategic priority for the firm. The firm regularly appears in the list of top employers as designated by Stonewall. Jim Ford, a friend and co-head of our internal network, won the Inspirational Leader award at the British LGBT Awards which took place very recently. 

This network has grown from an employee support network to a group at the heart of various D&I-focused graduate recruitment, mentoring and social responsibility activities. As a global firm, we have the ability to drive change and take responsibility not just within the profession but within the wider communities we serve. 

As a member of the board within the firm responsible for dealing with our local law firm network, I seek to share best practice, express how shared values are at the core of how we as a firm operate and wish our best friends to operate. However, I also seek to listen to and be sensitive of different cultural paradigms. What works in New York and Amsterdam does not in Dubai and Casablanca, but we can be clear as to our firm values and the direction of travel wherever we are located.How do you feel law firms are generally today on this topic?

I do think law firms are on the right side of the argument and seek to push forward change, just as Big Tech and professional services firms, writ large, seek to do. What I see now is that diversity initiatives have moved beyond their early goals of encouraging greater female participation in the senior ranks and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ colleagues to be representative of the societies we are operating in. 

That includes widening what D, E & I goals should be in order to encompass greater participation for differently abled colleagues and ensuring we take full benefit of those members of staff on or past retirement age.  I am proud that I was one of the first in my firm to have a trainee who was partially sighted (and who today is an impressive associate in our projects team). Social mobility is also top of mind. All of these initiatives will assist in bringing the full potential of society, including from the LGBT community, into the workforce.

A consultant to A&O Shearman, Lee is based in Israel and is the face on the ground in Tel Aviv, playing a key role in developing business and servicing local clients. He joined A&O as a trainee solicitor in 2005. 
The transatlantic merger between Allen & Overy (“A&O”) and Shearman & Sterling was completed in April 2024.